According to Edward Moore of St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology, Nebraska, Apokatastasis was first properly conceptualized in early Stoic thought, particularly by Chrysippus whose thinking was influenced by the theory of recurrence and cosmic cycles in Babylonian astronomical thought. The return (apokatastasis) of the planets and stars to their proper celestial signs, namely their original positions, would spark a conflagration of the universe (ekpyrosis). The original position was believed to consist of an alignment of celestial bodies with Cancer. Thereafter, from fire, rebirth would commence, and this cycle of alternate destruction and recreation was correlated with a divine Logos. Antapocatastasis is a counter-recurrence when the stars and planets align with Capricorn, which would mark destruction by a universal flood.Origen of Alexandria correlated the Stoic's concept of the rebirth and reconstruction of the cosmos with the active guidance and sustenance of the Logos, which is taken to be an emanation of Zeus, when Zeus turns his thoughts outwards once more. In Origen's understanding, in Stoic philosophy, the cosmos is a physical expression of Zeus' perfect thoughts and apocatastasis is the contraction when Zeus returns to self-contemplation.Leibniz explored both Stoic and his understanding of Origen's philosophy in two essays written shortly before his death, Apokatastasis and Apokatastasis panton (1715).
The concept of "restore" or "return" in the Hebrew Bible is the common Hebrew verb שׁוּב (shuwb/shuv), as used in Malachi 4:6, the only use of the verb form of apocatastasis in the Septuagint. This is used in the "restoring" of the fortunes of Job, and is also used in the sense of rescue or return of captives, and in the restoration of Jerusalem.
The word, apokatastasis, only appears once in the New Testament, in Acts 3:21.[a] Peter heals a beggar with a disability and then addresses the astonished onlookers. His sermon sets Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says:
[Jesus] whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring (apocatastasis) all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago;
or, in a less literal translation:
He [Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore (apocatastasis) everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
Both these translations use "time" (singular) to translate "χρόνων" ("of times"). A strictly literal translation of the whole verse is:
whom it behoveth heaven, indeed, to receive till times of a restitution of all things, of which God spake through the mouth of all His holy prophets from the age.
Grammatically, the relative pronoun "ὧν" ("of which", genitive plural), could refer to "χρόνων" ("of times"), in which case the central phrase would mean "till a restitution of all times of which God spake", or to "πάντων" ("of all" or "of all things"), meaning "till times of a restitution of all things of which God spake". The examples given show that the phrase is usually understood, seeing "all (things) of which God spoke" as the nearest referent, to speak of a restitution of all things of which God spoke, not of all times of which God spoke.
The usual view taken of Peter's use of the "apokatastasis of all the things about which God spoke" is that it refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and/or the Garden of Eden and not "all things that ever existed".
The verbal form of apokatastasis is found in the SeptuagintMalachi 3:23LXX (i.e. Malachi 4:6), a prophecy of Elijahturning back the hearts of the children to their fathers; in Matthew 17:11 ("he will restore all things"), echoing Malachi, and in Hebrews 13:19 ("that I may be restored to you the sooner").
Shortly before the phrase in Acts 3:21 comes, in Acts 3:19b or 3:20a,[b] the similar phrase, "times of refreshing",[c] Nineteenth-century "Eckermann interprets the 'apocatastasis of all things' to mean the universal emendation of religion by the doctrine of Christ, and the 'times of refreshing' to be the day of renewal, the times of the Messiah."
The significance of apocatastasis in early Christianity is today being re-evaluated. In particular it is now questioned whether Origen, often listed as the most notable advocate of universal salvation did in fact teach or believe in such a doctrine.
Frederick W. Norris, in his article "Apokatastasis", The Westminster Handbook to Origen, 2004, states that the positions that Origen takes on the issue of universal salvation have often seemed to be contradictory. "In scattered places Origen says quite clearly that he thinks all created intelligence will be restored to God at the end of time. In other places he says, equally clearly, that only souls who make the choice for God and practice the virtues God demands will come to rest in heaven. Those who do not live for God shall suffer eternally in hell or perhaps be annihilated there. If in coming years Origen's treatise on the resurrection is rediscovered, this apparent contradiction may be settled." He concludes: "One could not know in advance which audience would be most likely to accept the gospel, because of the hope engendered by God's overpowering love or because of the fear stimulated by God's threat of hell coupled with God's demand for ethical living. Most audiences of hearers or readers include both groups; knowing this, Origen the pastoral preacher probably kept his view of salvation economically 'open' for a greater effectiveness."
The term apocatastasis is mentioned in the 14th of the 15 anathemas of 553: "If anyone shall say ... that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the reigned pre-existence: let him be anathema."
Origen of Alexandria's other teachings about the possibility of glorified man falling again also played a role in that condemnation. In fact, most historians today would recognize a distinction between Origen's own teachings (or at least those that have survived) and the theological positions of later "Origenists". Even beliefs long attributed to Origen himself, such as a Platonic version of souls existing before bodies, the possibility of a second fall, are found to be much more nuanced and difficult to pin down in Origen's own writings. The Anathema against apocatastasis, or more accurately, against the belief that hell is not eternal, was not ratified despite support from the Emperor, and it is absent from the Anathemas spoken against Origen at Constantinople II.
The Alexandrian school adapted Platonic terminology and ideas to Christianity while explaining and differentiating the new faith from all the others. Proponents cited Biblical passage in 1 Corinthians 15:28, "When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." in support.
There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary to be born again through the image. Which one? Resurrection. The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration (apokatastasis). Not only must those who produce the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, do so, but have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him.
Meaning of apocatastasis in Christian theology
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) generally uses the term apokatastasis to refer to the "restoration" of the "gnostic" Christians, rather than that of the universe or of all Christians, but with universal implications.
As indicated above, the position of Origen (186–284) is disputed, with works as recent as the New Westminster Dictionary of Church History presenting him as speculating that the apocatastasis would involve universal salvation.
In early Christian theological usage apocatastasis meant the ultimate restoration of all things to their original state, which early exponents believed would still entail a purgatorial state, Both Origen and Gregory of Nyssa hoped that all creatures would be saved. The word was still very flexible at that time, but in the mid-6th century it became virtually a technical term referring, as usually today, to a specifically Origenistic doctrine of universal salvation.Maximus the Confessor outlined God's plan for "universal" salvation alongside warnings of everlasting punishment for the wicked.
The Vulgate translation of apokatastasis, "in tempora restitutionis omnium quae locutus est Deus" (the restitution of all things of which God has spoken) was taken up by Luther to mean the day of the restitution of the creation, but in Luther's theology the day of restitution was also the day of resurrection and judgment, not the restitution of the wicked. In Luther's Bible he rendered Greek apokatastasis with German herwiedergebracht werde, "will be brought back." This sense continued to be used in Lutheran sermons.
Luther explicitly disowned belief that the devils would ultimately reach blessedness.
In recent writing, apocatastasis is generally understood as involving some form of universal reconciliation, without necessarily attributing this understanding to Origen and other Fathers of the Church.
Gretillat, Augustin (1892), Exposé de théologie systématique (in French), described apocatastasis as universal reconciliation.
Köstlin, Heinrich Adolf (1896), "Apokatastasis", Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie (article) (in German) I, Leipzig, p. 617, translated in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, described apocatastasis as universal reconciliation.
Batiffol, Pierre (1911), "Apocatastasis", Catholic Encyclopedia (article), defined apocatastasis as "a name given in the history of theology to the doctrine which teaches that a time will come when all free creatures shall share in the grace of salvation; in a special way, the devils and lost souls."
Canney, Maurice Arthur (1921), An Encyclopaedia of Religions, "Apocatastasis became a theological term denoting the doctrine... that all men would be converted and admitted to everlasting happiness"
Oepke, Albrecht (1933), "Apokatastasis", in Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (article), "Apokatastasis cannot denote the conversion of persons but only the reconstitution or establishment of things."
Berkouwer, GC (1972), The Return of Christ, devoted a whole chapter, under the heading "Apocatastasis?", to the topic of universal reconciliation, "sometimes technically known as apocatastasis".
Meyendorff, John (1987), Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, "[apocatastasis], the idea that the whole of creation and all of humanity will ultimately be 'restored' to their original state of bliss."
McGarry, Michael (1995), A Dictionary of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue, "[apocatastasis], "one particular Christian expression of a general theology of universalism... the belief that at the end of time all creatures – believers and sinners alike – would be restored in Christ."
Peter Stravinskas, in the short article on apocatastasis in Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, 1998 and the still shorter entry in his Catholic Dictionary (1993), defines it as the belief "that all rational creatures are saved, including the fallen angels and unrepentant sinners".
A Concise Dictionary of Theology, 2000 describes apocatastasis as "a theory... that all angels and human beings, even the demons and the damned, will ultimately be saved".
Morwenna Ludlow (2001), in Universal Salvation: Eschatology in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner, writes that, though the meaning was very flexible until the mid-6th century, "the word apokatastasis is now usually used to refer to a specifically Origenistic doctrine of universal salvation".
Peter L. Berger, in his book Questions of Faith, 2003, calls apocatastasis "the conviction that, in the end, all will be saved and the entire creation will be reconciled with God".
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (third edition 2005) explains the term as meaning the doctrine of the ultimate salvation of all.
Justo L. González, in Essential Theological Terms (2005), says that "theories of the apocatastasis usually involve the expectation that in the end all, including the devil, will be saved".
Akin, Daniel L (2007), A Theology for the Church, explains apocatastasis as "the idea that all things will be ultimately reconciled to God through Christ – including the damned in hell and even Satan and his demons".
Stravinskas identifies apocatastasis with universalism or universal reconciliation, and some of the older sources do so also.[d] But most writers do not simply identify apocatastasis with universal reconciliation. González points out that a distinction exists, in that "it is possible to hold universalist views without believing that all of creation will return to its original state". And both Ludlow and McGarry state that the word apokatastasis is today usually understood as referring to one specific doctrine of universal salvation, not to all versions of universalism.
^Greek: ὃν δεῖ οὐρανὸν μὲν δέξασθαι ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ᾿ αἰῶνος αὐτοῦ προφητῶν. Vulgate: quem oportet caelum quidem suscipere usque in tempora restitutionis omnium quae locutus est Deus per os sanctorum suorum a saeculo prophetarum.
^Timmerman, Christiane (2007), Faith-based Radicalism: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, p. 59, "The usual view taken of Peter's use of the apokatastasis of "all things" is that it refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and/or the Garden of Eden and not "all things that ever existed.""
^Perseus database entries for apokatastasis listing as follows: 1 Friedrich Preisigke, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten; 7 P.Oxy., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri; 7 Polybius, Histories; 2 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews; 2 Diodorus Siculus, Library; 3 Stud.Pal., Studien zur Palaeographie und Papyruskunde; 1 Acts 3:21 New Testament; 1 PSI, Papiri greci e latini; 1 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers; 2 P.Cair.Masp., Papyrus grecs d'époque byzantine, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire; 3 P.Ryl, Rylands Papyri; 1 P.Col., Columbia Papyri; 2 P.Flor., Papiri greco-egizii, Papiri Fiorentini; 3 Aretaeus, The Extant Works of Aretaeus, The Cappadocian.; 1 UPZ, Urkunden der Ptolemäerzeit (ältere Funde); 1 P.Ross.Georg., Papyri russischer und georgischer Sammlungen; 1 P.Cair.Isid., The Archive of Aurelius Isidorus in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the University of Michigan; 1 P.Abinn., The Abinnaeus Archive: Papers of a Roman Officer in the Reign of Constantius II; 1 Pap.Choix, Choix de papyrus grecs: Essai de traitement automatique; 1 P.Athen.Xyla, P.Sta.Xyla: The Byzantine Papyri of the Greek Papyrological Society,; 1 O.Joach., Die Prinz-Joachim-Ostraka
^Moore, Edward (2005), Origen of Alexandria and St. Maximus the Confessor, Universal-Publishers, pp. 25–27.
^Coudert, Allison (1995), Leibniz and the Kabbalah, p. 110, "Having initially accepted the idea of apocatastasis in the pre-Origen and primarily Stoic sense that this world and everything in it was bound to return again and again in endless cycles of repetition, Leibniz came to embrace Origen's wholly…"
^"shuwb", Blue letter Bible (lexicon and Bible usage).
^Löwy, Michael (1992), Redemption and utopia: Jewish libertarian thought in Central Europe: a study in elective affinity, Stanford University Press, p. 64.
^Bock, Darrell L (2007), Acts, "The relative pronoun ὧν (hon, of which) could refer back to "the seasons" of which God spoke (Bauernfeind 1980: 69) or to "all things" of which God spoke (so Conzelmann 1987: 29; Barrett 1994: 206, nearest referent)."
^Fitzmeyer, The Acts of the Apostles, The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries, pp. 283–93.
^McClintock, John; Strong, James (1883), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature.
^Itter, Andrew C (2009), Esoteric teaching in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria, p. 200, "Clement uses the term apokatastasis and its cognates generally to refer to the gnostic elect rather than to an eschatological restoration of the universe, or to a restoration of the faithful as a whole. Where he does mention or imply a restoration of the whole it is through the medium of the restoration of the gnostic. …Hence, while some uses of apokatastasis appear to refer simply to the gnostic elect, by extension, they have universal implications."
^ abcdBenedetto & Duke 2008, p. 37: "Origen (186–284) theorized the apokatastasis as a recovery of the prehistoric stasis, or rest, enjoyed by spiritual creatures before their fall and embodiment. …Gregory of Nyssa (335–95) shared Origen's hope of all creatures being saved but argued that the final restoration would be a return not to a prehistorical unity but to that ultimate perfection that God originally projected for humanity."
^Luther, Martin (1861), Exegetica opera latina (in Latin), Elsperger, p. 432, "Si autem Pater est futurus perpetuo, ergo semper manet pater, semper generat filios usque ad diem illum restitutionis omnium…"
^Luther, Martin (1545), Die gantze Heilige Schrifft: Deudsch, Lutherbibel, "welcher mus den Himel einnemen bis auff die zeit da er wider bracht werde alles was Gott geredt hat durch den mund aller seiner heiligen Propheten von der Welt an" modernized as: "welcher muss den Himmel einnehmen bis auf die Zeit, da herwiedergebracht werde alles, was Gott geredet hat durch den Mund aller seiner heiligen Propheten von der Welt an".
^Beste, Wilhelm (1886), Die bedeutendsten Kanzelredner, "Der Herr Matthesius hat drei Stunden vor seinem seligen Abschiede eine ganze Predigt von diesem Wort gethan. Gottlob, der jüngste Tag ist dies restitutionis omnium. Da wird uns der Herr Jesus Alles wieder an die Seite setzen,…"
^Luther, Dr. Martin, "Vom Abendmahl Christi Bekenntnis", Sämmtliche Werke30, p. 372, "Denn ichs (=ich es) nicht halte mit denen, so da lehren, daß die Teufel auch werden endlich zur Seligkeit kommen"
^"Apocatastasis", Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN978-0-19-280290-3, "Apocatastasis. The Greek name (ἀποκατάστασις) for the doctrine that ultimately all free moral creatures – angels, men, and devils – will share in the grace of salvation"; cf. article "Universalism".